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The hermeneutic approach to museum education program development



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This qualitative study defined the hermeneutic approach as a strategy for developing museum education programs, and examined its implementation in two museum settings. A hermeneutic research methodology was used to design, interpret, and explain the hermeneutic approach to museum education program development and its implementation by two museum educator research participants, a codeveloper and an implementer. Four sequential stages comprised the study that addressed the following questions: What is the hermeneutic approach to museum education program development? How does the hermeneutic approach to museum education program development work? What does the hermeneutic approach to museum education program development offer to museum educators? In Stage One, elements of hermeneutics, curriculum theory, pedagogy, and museology were drawn from a review of the literature to define the hermeneutic approach. The hermeneutic approach was aligned to an interpretive curriculum theory paradigm. After establishing its theoretical foundation, the hermeneutic approach was diagrammed as a template for guiding the development of museum education programs that included the following components: curriculum topic, museum's mandate, storyline, themes, artifacts, and program: pre-understanding, meaning in-context, connectedness, process, experience, and communication. Stage Two continued with the introduction of the co-developer, a seasoned museum educator who assisted in refining the hermeneutic approach template by piloting its implementation in the development of a museum education program. Insights gained from this stage were used to modify the hermeneutic approach for Stages Three and Four of the study. The hermeneutic principles of pre-understanding, meaning-in-context, connectedness, process, experience, and communication were used as a format for conducting a workshop to teach the hermeneutic approach to seasoned and novice museum educators in Stage Three. According to the study's design, the Stage Four museum educator implementer autonomously developed a museum education program using the hermeneutic approach. A back and forth interplay between the experiences of the co-developer in Stage One and the implementer in Stage Four was mediated by the researcher to examine the template and its components. Results of the study indicate that the hermeneutic approach forces museum educators to move away from an objectives-based program planning strategy, thus redefining the role of artifact interpretation.



museology, pedagogy, curriculum theory, hermeneutics, museum education



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Curriculum Studies


Curriculum Studies




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